YOLA/DAMATURU Nigeria (Reuters) - Boko Haram insurgents have retaken the village of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria where the group abducted some 200 schoolgirls seven months ago, a lawmaker and a villager who fled the attack said on Friday.
Boko Haram, which is trying to carve out a caliphate in religiously mixed northern Nigeria, has stepped up attacks since it rejected a ceasefire announced last month by the government.
In a separate incident on Friday, a suicide bomber killed six people, including three policemen, in the northern city of Kano, a police spokesman said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Kano has often been the target of bombings by Boko Haram during their five-year-old campaign of violence.
Chibok and surrounding areas of Borno state have also been regularly targeted by the militants since the April abductions, which sparked an international outcry.
“The insurgents arrived (in Chibok) at about 5pm on Thursday, shooting sporadically, forcing people to flee into the bush,” the villager who fled told Reuters by telephone, adding that many villagers may have been killed.
Borno State lawmaker Aminu Foni said the insurgents had overwhelmed soldiers who were in the village, forcing them to retreat to the nearby town of Damboa.
The Nigerian army and government were not immediately available to comment.
In Gwoza, also under the militants’ control, some 100 km (60 miles) east of Chibok, about 16 people were killed in the hills near the town after they came out of hiding on Thursday to search for food, a local man, Andrew Tada, said.
Tada, who fled to the state capital Maiduguri after a first wave of attacks early this year, said his brother was trapped in the hills and had told him by phone that life on the mountain was difficult without shelter, water and food. “It forced the 16 to come down to the foot of the mountain but they were killed.”
The Nigerian army, aided by local hunters and civilian vigilantes, recaptured two towns south of Chibok after fierce fighting with the insurgents, pushing them further north towards Gombi where residents also reported heavy clashes on Friday.
The army said a military helicopter had crashed and exploded on Thursday night, killing all three crew on board, in an area where there were no immediate reports of combat or of Boko Haram activity. It was not immediately clear if the helicopter had been shot down or had crashed due to technical failure.
Reporting by Isaac Abrak and Felix Onuah in Abuja, Lanre Ola in Maiduguri and Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa; Additional reporting and writing by Bate Felix in Lagos; editing by Gareth Jones